What is Your Greatest Weakness?/Percy Jackson Series/Gods and Goddesses

percy jacksonI am officially only five books away from my goal of 40 books in 2018 and I can taste victory!  I wonder if I should give myself a laurel wreath crown when I’m done? lol

I absolutely adore this series.  I read the first book back in grad school for a mental break.  I was so surprised how quickly I read through it.  For a young adult series, a genre I hadn’t read in a while, it was pretty dope.

If you don’t have any idea who or what I’m talking about, I’ll give you the lay of the land.  First, our main character is Percy Jackson, a 12-year-old with dyslexia and behavioral issues.  He befriends outcasts like his best friend, Grover Underwood, a weird kid who wears a baseball cap over his ears and walks with a limp.  Percy, in a fascinating turn of events, learns he is a half-blood (half god, half human).  It comes as quite a shock when he learns his best friend is a satyr (half goat, half human) with hooves and everything!  In addition, his mother has known everything all along and has been protecting him from monsters that would very much like to kill him.

While processing all of this, Percy goes to Camp Half-Blood to be safe while he learns useful skills (like how to stay alive!), learns where he came from, why he exists, and who his father really is.  He meets a pretty blonde girl with gray eyes named Annabeth, the camp is run by Cheiron the Centaur (half human, half horse) and he receives a special gift.  It’s a pen that turns into a magical sword named Riptide!  How freakin cool for a 12-year-old boy!  He’s a hero, like Hercules!  Only he’s twelve, living in modern times, and he does not have superhuman strength, but the pen is REALLY cool! lol

I really love that Percy is dyslexic.  The idea of a dyslexic hero is just too perfect to me since my sister has dyslexia and I swear sometimes it seems like a superpower!  In the books, it’s used to explain Percy’s overactive brain and some of his other unique qualities.  In a way, the series turns a handicap (though I don’t even like using that word) into an inner strength.  The writing style is like a journal, where Percy talks right to you and he’s got an adorable sense of humor which again makes for a quick read.  As much as I adore this series as an adult, I can only imagine what I would have thought as a kid.

I love the lessons, or hidden messages if you will, that come within the storyline.  At one point in the series, Percy Jackson learns his greatest weakness, and it’s not what he expected.  Some might think of pride or fear as a weakness, but Percy’s greatest weakness is his unwavering loyalty to his friends.  Now you might think, “That doesn’t sound like a flaw to me!”  However, if an enemy can count on you to do something, it’s a pretty dangerous tool he can use against you.

Countless times, Percy put himself in danger when he had no idea what he was doing or how things would turn out, simply because a friend was in trouble.  When it is first brought to his attention, Percy doesn’t want to admit this fatal flaw, but there’s no denying it.  Time and time again he has rushed, without forethought in harm’s way for the sake of his friends.  Sometimes he even does more harm than good.  Does this mean loyalty is a bad character trait?  No!  What it means (or what it means to me) is that knowing yourself, the good the bad and the ugly, can help you win in life.  We are predictable creatures as humans.  We all have gifts, talents, strengths and yes, we all have flaws.  Yet, when we really know ourselves, when can use this to our advantage.   There’s no use in fighting who we are.  Embrace it and go kick some monster-butt!  lol  Or your Thursday work meeting, whatever! lol  You get the idea.

I am currently on book four of five in the series, and I can definitely see myself finishing it in record time!

If you’re up for an adventure, full of tears, triumphs, magic swords, gods and goddesses this is the series for you.  Don’t be like me.  I thought, “Eh, that’s for kids.  I’m too grown to be reading this young adult cr…..ooooooh he fights Medusa? Coooooool!”  Yeah, go ahead.  Let your bad teenager side out with this one.  Your inner child will thank you. 😉

May the gods go with you.

-Sarah

 

The Land of Dragons and Wizards/Earthsea Series/Ursula Le Guin

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Calm your jets GoT fans and you Harry Potterheads.  We’re not headed to see Daenerys, nor are we on our way to Hogwarts.  However, if you are in morning over finishing either of these popular obsessions, you are sure to enjoy this amazing series by the great Ursula Le Guin.

I have recently fallen back in love with this author due to a friend of mine (Let’s call him Barney) who is a very big fan of fantasy fiction.  I read the first book of the trilogy over a year ago and promptly shared it with my bookclub.  However, for some reason, I didn’t continue with the series.  Have you ever looked back on your life and realized you made a terrible mistake.  Yeah, that’s me now.  *oy*

How did I discover Ursula Le Guin you might ask…well I’m so glad you did!  I discovered her in a movie.  I know, silly but true.  If you have never watched “The Jane Austen Bookclub” you should….immediately…after you finish reading this blogpost, of course.  In the movie, Le Guin is mentioned as an amazing fantasy writer that found a place in the heart of one of the main characters.  The writers and the actor, made her sound so intriguing, I inevitably gave in and ordered the first book.

The tales of dragons, mages, cracks in time, the edge of the earth, with all the missions and fables and folk songs, took me to this whole other world.  I was so happy with the first book, A Wizard of Earthsea I gave it to a friend (Let’s call her Annie)!  Needless to say, it was a fast read, so when Barney mentioned it to me last week, a lightbulb went off in my head.  Fast read…40 books by December 31st, 2018….MUST READ NOW!!!

I have devoured the last two books of the trilogy in less than a week!  Here’s the low down if you’re still aren’t convinced.

A Wizard of Earthsea–First book: A young wizard, named Ged, is cocky and talented.  He believes power is wielded like a sword, powerful and unstoppable.  He tries to do what no wizard has ever done before and he succeeds, only to realize he has put the universe in danger.  His master risks his life to save his student.  Ged learns his true strength by trying to set things right.

The Tombs of Atuan–Second book: A young priestess, named Tenar, proud in her lack of identity as the head priestess of the Tombs of Atuan, lives a dull and boring existence until she is sixteen years old.  She finds and traps a wizard in the labyrinth beneath her temple.  Through her curiosity and courage, she learns who she is and who she is not.  Unfortunately, everything she knows to be true is a lie.  What will she do with her prisoner now?

Still need more….wait for it.

The Farthest Shore–Third book: A young prince, named Arren, is sent with a message to the wizards of old.  He tells of how the power has gone out of all mages and those who used to speak the language of dragons can no longer utter a single word.  The young prince is recruited to accompany a wizard to the ends of the earth to seek, exactly what neither of them knows.  Through enslavement, near-death experiences, and facing down the most powerful dragon of all time, Arren learns the danger of wanting too much from life, magic, and power.  He learns the limits of the powerful, and how eternal life is a double-edged sword.

Yeah, go ahead, let that sit around in your noggin’ for a little while and see if you don’t devour every book this woman has ever written.

Here are some of my favorite themes from the books:

  1. Names are so important.  You are given a name at birth.  However, your parents don’t give you your true name.  A mage gives you your true name.  You must not reveal this name to anyone, unless out of necessity and trust.  Some wizards are so powerful they know your true name by the mere sight of you.  I sometimes wish that we still held on to our Christian names more tightly.  I wish someone had to ask my permission to call me by my first name.  There’s something very romantic about that tradition.  After all, names have power…even today.
  2. Destiny plays a big part in the story of each character.  Everything comes back to what fate decides.  Sometimes things don’t work out exactly as said character would wish, but the truth of their destiny fulfills them more than any alternative path.
  3. There are little nuggets of wisdom in these one-liners throughout the books.  Such as:
    • “It is much easier for men to act than refrain from acting.”  I know this to be true in my own life.
    • Or when a character obtains eternal life in Earthsea, they become zombie-like.  There is no joy for them anymore.  You might see some Circe themes in that portion if you’ve read the book by Madeline Miller. *wink*
    • The last tidbit, “Is a good man, a man with no evil in him?”  We always try to make things so cut and dry, but even the definitions of good and evil, or right and wrong are subjective to mere humans.

Each story is a coming of age story, where a youth learns reality versus fantasy.  (Ironic theme since the genre is fantasy-fiction lol.)  Ged learns the repercussions of his magic.  Tenar learns who she really is by breaking every rule she’s ever known.  Arren learns the folly of thinking that magic can make a man invincible.

I really am enjoying this series and not just because it puts a pretty great dent in my grand reading total for the year 2018!  And guess what!  It’s not over yet!  There are THREE more books!

The next three are a part of The Earthsea Cycle series and I’ve already started on book four!  Tehanu (Earthsea Cycle), Tales from Earthsea, and The Other Wind are waiting for me, so I’ll leave you to dream of dragon tales, wizard staffs, and the fantastic worlds created by the amazing Ursula Le Guin.  Fare thee well, my fellow book-dwellers. *wink*

-Sarah

 

Reading Funk/How Do I Get Out!

What do you do when you lose your motivation to read?

It can happen to anyone. You can’t really find anything that sparks your interest…no book covers are catching your eye in the stores. You start half a dozen books only to quit a few chapters into the story.

It’s a listless existence when you lose your bookworm bug 😔 I’ve found myself in such a funk lately and I have a few solutions that are helping me!

1. Read from an author you LOVE!!

Go back to a feel good writer that inspired you and made you want to write something amazing yourself. You know what author I’m talking about. It’s the one that made you stay up for hours turning pages because putting the book down felt wrong or even sacrilegious! I decided to read the third book in the Anne of Green Gables series. *Sigh* L.M. Montgomery is a genius.

Note: A good book cover never hurts when you find yourself in a funk 😉 Don’t believe what they say, a good bookworm always judges a book by its cover 🙊 Check out these AMAZING Anne of Green Gables covers by Jacqui Oakley!

2. Read a feel good story

In general, find something sweet. An easy feel good read that is consumed much like a chick-flick or an episode of Friends on Netflix. It helps if the reviews say it’s funny too 😂. Laughter always makes for a quick read! Couple of options here:

3. Read short books!

It’s not rocket science, but it works. Read a book that’s only 150-200 pages long. You’ll feel like your a speed reader, if only for a moment 😉

All these books are under 230 pages and they definitely helped get the ball rolling!

4. Read on Audible!

I can’t say enough good things about Audible!! I have read so much more with Audible than I would ever be able to with physical books or e-books. Some say it’s cheating, like it’s not real reading. However, I would argue that listening to an entire plot, keeping up with complex characters, and holding focus is much harder than it appears. 😉 Some studies show it’s good for you to alternate between different kinds of reading. My favorite way to read is to have the physical and audio version and use both simultaneously! It can be expensive but you can always get the book from the library like me! And with Audible, audiobooks aren’t expensive at all!

My favorite audiobooks of all time:

I hope these tips and tricks helped you get out of your reading funk! Do you have any suggestions or ideas to break the stop-start-stop reading cycle? Let me know in the comments! Happy reading! 📖

-Sarah

The Great Gatsby/Unique Take/Classic

TGGWhat makes a book get to the renowned section dubbed “The Classics?”  What makes it classic?  How many people have read it?  How many people liked it?  How many people hated it?  Or is it all a game of chance?  Is there a formula to what makes a book a classic?

These questions may be too complicated to answer in one blog post, and I don’t really think I’m looking for an answer.  I’m one of those people who judge a movie like this:

Critics love it — I’m going to hate it.

Critics hate it — It’s going to be my new favorite movie!

I have never held much stock in Tony or Emmy awards since they don’t go to the person or movie the people I would’ve picked.  I appreciate the People’s Choice Awards for this very reason.  So in spite of my doubts, I decided to read a classic recently.

The Great Gatsby

I’ve never seen the movie, only snippets here and there.  Nothing much is given away there, and the movie can be SO much different than the book.  (We nerds know that REALLY well! lol)

Therefore, I dove in with very little expectations except for the Taylor Swift song line, “Feeling so Gatsby for that whole year.”  I had images of gold and crystal, fine china and gorgeous gowns, excess beyond wildest dreams and a beautiful dream of a novel to go with it.  Ok….maybe I had a few expectations, lol.

You all know the drill:

*****SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT*****

As I read the story, I was drawn in by the character of Nick.  Fitzgerald had this beautiful way of creating this observed world through our narrator.  It was rather ordinary scenes he portrayed in a dazzling kind of way.  However, the other characters turned me off from the beginning.  Daisy, the elusive love in the story of The Great Gatsby, was nothing like I thought she’d be.  I found her flighty, whiny, and very eager to give excuses for her bully of a husband.  Gatsby I decided was even less interesting.  He merely puts on displays to appear in a certain way to make up for the past in his head.  You rarely ever glimpse an authentic moment within these two characters.  They simply are infatuated with one another.  Not in love.  That is something very different.

I know I’m probably stepping on a few sacred cows here, but this is for all those who don’t like “classics.”  Just because a title has been called “classic” does not mean everyone will love it.  Nor does it mean that it is an amazing book.  Reading is relative, like everything else in life.  Your favorite book is your favorite for your reasons.  And mine is my favorite for my reasons.  It comes from our experiences, our backgrounds, our values.  And there is nothing wrong with that.

In my personal opinion, the ending of TGG can be read in two ways.  Comment if you have any others!

  1. These two were star-crossed lovers who passed in the night and never had the chance to live together in the true love they shared.     OR………
  2. They were two idiots who got what they deserved.

I know that seems harsh but I honestly think this plot leaves a lot to be desired.

I’ve made mistakes in life.  A lot of stupid mistakes.  I’ve mistaken infatuation for love, and want for need, and good for GOD AWFUL!  I’ve ignored my gut instincts.  I’ve regretted ignoring my gut instincts.  Just like the characters in this book, I am imperfect.

Maybe that’s what makes this book a classic.  Not that it is happy or has good closure, or leaves us uplifted, but it instead makes us ask the hard questions in life.  It makes us second guess whether or not we truly listen to that little voice that tells us who we truly are.

I won’t give it that many stars (because let’s face it, I’m a need-a-prince-on-a-white-horse kind of gal! lol) but I will give Fitzgerald this: he made me think.

-Sarah

It’s Official/I’m a Writer/EEEEP!

So I have some pretty exciting news for you guys!Screen Shot 2018-11-05 at 12.57.18 PM

I’ve sold my first article!  I know right!

If you go to the November issue of the Fort Worth Magazine

Then go to page 10.  You’ll find a mini bio (Read it here) on me as well as a short interview as the guest writer for the November issue!

I keep pinching myself, but it is real!  I’m a professional writer 🙈

That’s my picture right there at the top of page 10! 😳

bio clipThen if you go to page 18 you’ll find an article titled “Trinity Valley’s First African-American QB Talks Breaking Barriers”

Go here if you’d like to read it!

The process was so exciting!  I called ahead and arranged to meet the coach and Kingsley, the young quarterback the article was to center around.

They were very kind and obliging throughout the interview.  You could really tell this coach cared about his students.

 

I enjoyed learning more about the team aspect of football since I’ve never played sports.  This young man was so talented and humble.  The coach was so proud.

Did they change my article some, of course!  Does it matter to me, not one little bit!  (ok, maybe for like two seconds) . But this is the coolest thing that has ever happened to me!  The best part is, this is just the beginning!

If you’d like to read the original article I wrote, just keep scrolling!

Hugs!

-Sarah

Kingsley Ehiemua

Kingsley Ehiemua: King on the Field, Leader at Heart

By Sarah January

The senior quarterback at Trinity Valley School (TVS) in Fort Worth Texas, is anything but ordinary. Kingsley Ehiemua is a towering boy of six foot, four inches, with broad shoulders, a bright smile and an eye for fashionable footwear. He is a true southern seventeen-year-old who says “Yes, Sir” and “No ma’am” when asked a question, and oozes character with every word from his mouth. Unlike other students who move to TVS, Ehiemua transferred later than most. Students who transfer to TVS usually switch over around 5th or 6th grade. However, Ehiemua made this strategic move during his sophomore year.

The football field is a home away from home for Ehiemua. He began playing quarterback when he was only four years old. Football stayed with him all the way to high school. After spending his freshman year at two different schools, Ehiemua made the calculated decision to transfer to TVS. Isaiah Jackson, current running back for TVS, told his friend, Ehiemua, about TVS. Trinity Valley is known as a college-prep school, and Ehiemua’s mom was very interested to see how he would flourish in such an environment. They agreed TVS would be a place where he could finish strong.

Head Football Coach, Aaron Mattox, stated his goal for each student was for them to feel included. “I’d hate for someone to come to Trinity Valley and not feel the family atmosphere we provide.” he said. The transition from public to private school proved to be an adjustment for Ehiemua. However, when it came to the football team, everything just clicked. Last year,

Ehiemua led and encouraged his team all the way to the state title. It is clear to see, Ehiemua has found a home at Trinity Valley School.

An interesting fact about Ehiemua: he is the first African American starting quarterback at TVS. Ehiemua admitted he didn’t even know this until someone told him. The question is whether or not this fact about Ehiemua accurately represents TVS. Coach Mattox and Ehiemua say no. Coach Mattox stated, “It just so happens, he is the first one.” Here’s what Ehiemua had to say: “When people say ‘The First African American Quarterback,’ I take it as a blessing…It really makes me play no different. I try to stay grounded and I look at myself just like everybody else. Everybody’s equal. It [TVS] is a very diverse environment. You name it, we got it!” It is obvious, TVS has a good reputation as a diverse and inclusive environment that accepts all races, colors, and creeds. With determination in his eyes, Ehiemua had some advice for other African American students looking to break barriers: “Hard work has no color to it. If you work hard and you do the right thing, anything is possible.”

When it comes to the rest of his life, Ehiemua is just like any other kid. To de-stress, he likes to write. “I write for fun. Anything that comes to mind, really. I write about my day. It’s a way to get the stress…off of you.” He sets goals for himself. Ehiemua wants to win back-to-back state titles with his team. When he’s working out: do one more set. When he’s reading: read one more chapter. This is the motto his coaches taught him, “The goal is one more.” His hero is his grandfather, who is a pharmacist and according to Ehiemua “He never takes off work.” His grandfather owns his own pharmacy and he teaches free classes for underprivileged students. What are Ehiemua’s future dreams you might ask? If you’re thinking of NFL drafts and brand endorsements, you’d be wrong. Ehiemua wants to be a physician’s assistant. He

wants to help people…just like he does on the field…just like his grandfather does in the classroom.

Some might look at Ehiemua and see the first African American quarterback at TVS. To his team members, his coaches, and his family, he’s Kingsley, their brother, leader, and teammate. Ehiemua would like to encourage Fort Worth as well. The next time you want to give up, remember: “The goal is one more.”

 

Coincidences/Mystery Read/Kate Morton

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Do you remember the first time you read Sherlock Holmes or the first time you watched Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law portray the crime-solving duo?  Perhaps you binge-watched the Benedict Cumberbatch version with the nail-biting arch nemesis, Moriarty?

Either way, I’m sure you remember the first mystery you ever read.  You remember the way it made your heart beat faster, your head started swimming with all the possible endings, and you turned the pages so fast you damaged a few.

 

 

 

These are the kinds of books I like to read around Halloween.  I like to go on a journey where I become totally engrossed in a world I’ve never seen.  It’s intoxicating!

I have recently discovered a new author with a knack for mysteries.

Her name is Kate Morton.

Here is a quote from Kate about writing:

I started writing because I wanted to recapture the joy of reading as a child. As soon as I learned that the black marks on white pages were doorways and that it was within my power to go through them (and the back of the wardrobe) whenever I chose to, I was hooked. I read everything that I could get my hands on and could usually be found hiding in a bough of one of the avocado trees in our garden, book in hand. I’m still chasing that feeling of complete immersion, which makes the real world disappear. There are ups and downs as a writer, but when the fictional world starts to live and breathe, there’s nothing like it.

This woman is a true talent with adorable bangs and an admiration for history.  It’s like we were separated at birth.  It has been a while since I connected with an author like this!

The first book I decided to read by Kate Morton was merely just a cover that caught my eye at Barnes and Noble.   I never thought I would read it for 5 hours straight.  It’s been a long time since a book has captured me like this.  With every twist, I would come up with a new theory on “who dun it” LOL.  I would think to myself, “Aha!  I have it.”  I decided this writer was nothing more than another two-bit mystery writer like all the others when she spun me on my head and up was down while down was up!  I love when that happens!  Something amazing happens when the whole story hinges on one sentence, and Morton did just that over and over again!  I’m not going to even go into more detail.  I wouldn’t dare do any *SPOILERS*  Just read it!  You won’t regret it!

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The world looks so different with just a small bit of change.  We usually point our fingers outward thinking we know the source of all our problems when in reality a slight shift on the inside could transform everything.  I’ve personally experienced this feeling in my own life.  Perhaps that’s why I related so much to this book.  You can change your whole life by simply looking at it differently.

Some have criticized this book as predictable and full of convenient coincidences.  However, I don’t believe there are such things as coincidences.  The word “coincidence” is scattered throughout the entire book, so much so that it’s almost a joke.

Some are so pessimistic when good things happen in their lives.  I know I have.  We think life can’t be that wonderful, but it can.

I’ve seen it.

I’ve felt it.

swing.jpgI’ve watched Providence step in and change everything.  Where hope was non-existent, opportunities now flourish; where doubts had flooded in, courage grows effortlessly; where loneliness overpowered, you discover friends.

I don’t think it’s an accident that one of the main characters of this book was a writer.  I don’t think it was an accident that I picked this title over all of Morton’s other books.  You can feel it when inspiration is hitting you.

I can feel something really amazing on the horizon.  Just because I’m looking at the world in a new way.

 

Some of you may or may not know, I’ve decided to write a book.  It’s a book about a woman who inspired me when I was writing my thesis.  Her name is Nixola.  She was a journalist in the late 1890s.  I love her writing style, her quippy sarcasm, and her tireless search for the truth.  I want to tell her story.  It needs to be told and the world needs to hear it.  It’s going to take some time and hard work, but it’s going to happen.  I never thought I would do something like this, let alone want to, but here I am.  It’s funny how things turn out, but it’s not a coincidence.

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-Sarah

2-month Update/Will I Make It?/New Website

So what do you think!  I hope you like the change.  I think WordPress is going to make a nice new home for “Nerd Named Sarah,” don’t you!?  I’ve added a new feature for the blog as well.  If you click any of the pictures it will take you to Amazon so you can purchase the book!

Ok, so this is more of a 2 months and one week update, but close enough!  I only read four books in the past month, and I’m starting to worry about making it!  I will though!  You can bet on it.

The schedule for the rest of the year is to finish The Great Gatsby, which is such an easy read.  Next, finish four more books during the last week and a half of October (don’t worry, it’s not as crazy as it sounds with all the books I’ve started but have not finished).  Then I only have 6 books a month for November and December. Whew!

Here’s what I read this month:

0125d-no2bbarriersNo Barriers — If you want to know what I think of this masterpiece and you missed last week’s blog post, click here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

KalingWhy Not Me? — She’s refreshing in an off-putting way

Though it’s difficult to relate to a famous comedy writer/actress, she had a way of portraying herself if a very ordinary way.  She made silly mistakes when she first came to Hollywood.  She fawned all over the president.  Kevin Hart made her laugh and cute boys made her blush.  She was cute…in a greasy hair, t-shirt and underwear kind of way!  Favorite quote: When you are entitled, you are the most insufferable person ever.  If you are entitled and hardworking, which I am, you are still pretty insufferable, but at least you somewhat earned your entitled behavior. 

 

I Dare YouI Dare You! — If you want to put a pep in your step and read what I thought of this classic, click here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

the darkThe Dark Between Stars — This author is the most amazing artist.  I have struggled to find poetry I could enjoy, but ever since I read my first Atticus’ poem I have been captivated ever since!  His first book was amazing and his second book just might be even better! There is no way I could only choose one favorite poem, so here are two of my favorites:

 

 

 

“What if she says no?”

asked the boy,

and the old man smiled,

“best not live scared of thorns

or you’ll never find a rose.”  

How beautiful is that!  Wait, here’s another one.

“The doubters

are just dreamers

with broken hearts.”

He can do so much with so few words!

 

That brings the grand total to…….

Pink Heart Light Bulb Anniversary Card

YAYYYYYYYYYY!  That’s 17 books to go.  I’ve started the following:

  1. The Lake House by Kate Morton–Which is crazy fascinating!
  2. These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach–It’s kinda funny so far.
  3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl

Til next time,

-Sarah